When teaching plot, setting, and characterization I find that children learn best when they can bring the stories to life in a meaningful way. The children learn about these elements best by creating their own characters and writing their own stories to perform for each other.
At the start of second grade we read stories such as Mr. Putter and Tabby, Frog and Toad, Crictor and others to understand patterns in plot,setting, and characterization. Although I demonstrate these elements with drawings, graphs, and in depth discussions nothing is more effective than children experimenting with story telling and writing on their own.
Once the children are familiar with the basic elements of story writing and telling they are given the task of writing their own stories to either read aloud or act out in the form of a puppet show. The story/ puppet show must be grounded in a place and time and follow a plot sequence. The story must also demonstrate the personality of characters by using past knowledge of our studies of those characters . In addition the children must make sure to include language that illustrates how things look,sound,smell,taste,and feel. Once the story is written it must be edited by the child along with peers and then a final teacher edit. Once all that is complete the children go about creating their puppets for the puppet show.
The children also use puppets they create to create back stories for characters we want to know more about. We read the book Crictor by Tomi Ungerer. The children wanted to know where Crictor lived and what he was doing before he was given as a gift to Mrs. Badot. In order to bring our story ideas to life we each created a Crictor puppet and took turns telling the back stories we invented about Crictor’s early life.
Below is the link to photos of our puppet show performances:
Rivki Wiener has been teaching elementary school for the past 22 years. Rivki received her BA in education from Stern College For Women and her MA in education from Wilkes University. Over the year she has taught general studies on grade levels 1-6. Currently she is teaching general studies in grades 2 and 4.